Summary of Trauma and Recovery

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Trauma and Recovery book summary
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Traumatic experiences can permanently scar or change you. In this groundbreaking work, Judith Herman meticulously explores the impact of trauma on the human psyche, whether the trauma originates from a natural disaster, political terror, captivity or combat. Writing from a feminist political perspective, Herman also investigates traumas that result from domestic abuse, incest and rape, areas largely unexplored before the 1970s. She describes the symptoms of those who have experienced trauma, explains why they occur, puts forth a program for healing and sets it within a social matrix. This often-quoted book on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) changed the way those in the psychiatric fields diagnosed trauma. It also created a new model for treatment. As such, it is required reading for advanced psychology students, therapists, social workers and counselors, particularly those dealing with patients suffering from PTSD. While it is not for the casual reader, getAbstract recommends Herman’s complex, carefully constructed analysis to people who have PTSD or know someone who does.

About the Author

Judith Lewis Herman, M.D., is a professor of clinical psychiatry at Harvard University Medical School and director of training at the Victims of Violence Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is also the author of Father-Daughter Incest (1981).



The Study of Trauma – A Brief History

The political environment may either support or impede the study of psychological trauma. The first serious studies of so-called “hysteria,” led by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, took place in the late 19th century. Charcot recorded the symptoms of female hysteria from a scientific perspective, yet he did not wish to look at a patient’s thoughts or feelings, or find a cure. His followers, particularly Pierre Janet and Sigmund Freud, talked with hysterics to understand the causes of their symptoms. They found that “hysteria was caused by psychological trauma.” The recovery of traumatic memories through the interaction between a doctor and a patient became the root of modern psychotherapy. In 1896, Freud published The Aetiology of Hysteria, in which he postulated that “premature sexual experience,” in other words, child abuse, was the root cause of hysteria. Considering the large number of women with hysteria who came to his practice, he quickly repudiated his own work realizing that if all hysteria was the product of child abuse, then this type of perversion was more widespread than he and European society were willing...

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